MANTON (AP) — As a lightning-sparked wildfire raged near Lynn Rodgers’ home of less than a year, the evacuated resident said Tuesday she remained optimistic — in spite of her growing frustration and fear.
“Yeah, but what can you do? Everything is in God’s hands — and the firefighters,” said Rodgers, who lives in Shingletown.
Aided by a shift in winds, firefighters were making a stand against the Ponderosa Fire, which has destroyed seven homes and prompted fearful residents to take shelter at a sports complex in nearby Redding.
Since igniting Saturday, the fire grew to more than 30 square miles. Nearly 2,100 firefighters were battling the blaze in rugged, densely forested terrain as it threatened 3,500 homes in the remote towns of Shingletown, Manton and Viola, about 170 miles north of Sacramento.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the fire had consumed 21,540 acres and was 40 percent contained, Cal Fire said. Fifty structures had been destroyed, and 200 residences, 10 commercial properties and 30 outbuildings remained threatened. Cal Fire didn’t specify how many of the 50 destroyed were homes.
The fast-moving fire is one of many burning across the West, where dry lightning has sparked up grass, brush and timber, bringing an early start to the fire season.
Like Rodgers, many other evacuees were anxious to hear the latest information from officials. Dozens of people, as well as about a dozen dogs, were waiting at the Redding gym.
“The evacuation part? It’s hard because I don’t know what’s happening to the house up there,” said Jimmy Hall, a Shingletown resident whose family spent another night sleeping on cots.
“It’s my dad’s house…There’s a lot of things in there,” Hall added. “I’ve heard that my friend is still up there protecting his house. It’s just hard. Look at how we’re sleeping.”
Eric Kiltz, an emergency services coordinator for the American Red Cross, said “there’s more frustration than anxiety, and people, for the most part are grateful they have a safe and secure place to stay, even though their home may be lost.”
Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that National Guard troops will be assisting with the firefighting efforts. The news comes a day after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it is offering federal funds to help fight the blaze.
Remnants of the fire spotted in some homes included melted satellite dishes, burned furniture and charred refrigerators. As the wildfire burned, massive amounts of smoke poured from the forest.
The fire forced the closure of Highway 44 and other roads, and prompted the declaration of an emergency in Shasta County.
Bonnie Maloy, who left her home in Shingletown, along with her husband Bill, described the scene as they fled the flames as “frantic at first.”
“Then I said, ‘Let’s calm down,’ and we got everything that’s important, things we couldn’t replace: animals, kids, photo albums,” she said.
Rodgers said her family employed a similar strategy prior to getting the call Saturday to leave their home.
Rodgers, her husband Derek and their two sons loaded up their belongings and two dogs and two cats. The family stayed at a motel before joining others at the Redding sports complex Sunday.
Since then, Rodgers said she’s staying busy by volunteering and cleaning up around the complex.
“It’s our home right now, so for the time being, we should all be appreciative and take care of it.”